Friday, October 10, 2008

Good for Connecticut

Another one of my former home states has made me proud. By a 4-3 ruling, the state Supreme Court today granted marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, effective Oct. 28. The court ruled that Connecticut's civil unions violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.

Justice Richard N. Palmer, who wrote for the majority, said, "Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice. To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others."

The state's Republican governor, M. Jodi Rell, said that while she disagreed with the decision, she would uphold it. “I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision, either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution, will not meet with success.”

Okay, here's what I have a hard time wrapping my mind around. Why should the court's voice reflect the majority of the people of Connecticut?

When the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, did it's "voice" reflect the majority of the people of the United States in 1954? Should the court have waited until a majority of Americans were willing to have black children and white children go to school together? Maybe Congress should have waited to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act until white Southerners agreed that black Americans should be allowed to vote?

I think the role of the court is to interpret the Constitution - including the part that calls for equal protection under the law for everyone. No one's civil rights should be put up to a popular vote. If we did things that way, which states would revive segregation? Which states would deny African-Americans the right to vote? None? Are you absolutely sure? Think about it.

This is a matter of fairness. I simply don't see why any group of Americans should be treated as second-class citizens. Beyond that, this ruling, like the ones before it in California and Massachusetts, harms no one - not one single heterosexual marriage or family or individual. It simply allows law-abiding, taxpaying gay and lesbian citizens - your friends and neighbors and coworkers and family - the same rights as everyone else.

Janet Peck, one of the plaintiffs in Connecticut, said that she and her partner, Carole Conklin, started hugging and crying after the decision was announced: "I can't believe it. We're thrilled; we're absolutely overjoyed. We're finally going to be able, after 33 years, to get married."


Amanda said...

I heard about this earlier today and it made my day! I completely agree with you about the courts vs. the popular opinion (even wrote about it on my own blog today).

William D. Lindsey said...

Esther, I found your blog through Amanda's link to it. I completely agree with what you have to say about why people's fundamental rights shouldn't be subject to a vote. I posted something on my Bilgrimage blog today that parallels what you say about Gov. Rell and this topic.

Esther said...

Thank-you, both, for your comments. I think a lot of Americans are misinformed about the purpose of the Constitution - at the state and national level.

The Constitution is designed to protect the rights of minorities, not to ensure that the views of the majority are carried out. That's why, for example, freedom of religion is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

Americans who happen to be born gay or lesbian deserve the same protection, the same right to equal treatment under the law, as Americans who happen to be born heterosexual.